Slim Fit New Construction–Building on a Skinny Lot

Recently I’ve become interested in building new construction in historic neighborhoods and I’ve been doing some preliminary research into what has been done in St. Louis and in other cities.  Some of the most interesting examples are really modern in design and in some cases greeen buildings as well.  The most asthetically pleasing new construction in urban areas really fits into the fabric of the block and the neighborhood.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be a brick building with historic windows and doors etc.  Some of the best urban infill in historic districts fits that description because it has to according to the codes set forth by the cultural resources office.  But there are examples of urban infill popping up in St. Louis and other cities that fit the urban fabric of their neighborhoods without looking like a historic building.  These houses comply with standard lot setbacks, windows are at same general levels as surrounding buildings, and buildings are close to the same height and depth as other buildings in the neighborhood.  But these buildings have a very modern look, with different building materials, lots of glass, with metallic accents, and often very functional compared their 100 year old counter parts

When I found the article about the house I am about to highlight I was doing a myriad of google searches such “modular home costs”, “urban modular homes”, “urban infill houses” etc.  Then a result turned up that caused me to abandon my research and take in something I had never seen before.  As someone who is interested in new contstruction and how it can fit into the urban fabric I found this house to be extremely interesting.  Dwell Magazine calls the house that I speak of “The Donald Chong Slim Fit House”.  It was built on a 16 ft wide lot in a Toronto neighborhood that has similar aged homes to Shaw and Tower Grove Heights in St. Louis.  St. Louis is a city that has no shortage of buildable lots.  In fact, if you want to do it in a certain neighborhood the city may give you the lot for free.  The problem you’ll run into is that there are not many buildable lots in city neighborhoods that people consider desirable.  Try to find a buildable lot for a reasonable price in St. Louis Hills. Soulard, Lafayette Square, or Southampton…I dare you.  If you check the LRA’s website there are some skinny lots less than 20ft wide that are for sale.  Until I saw this article on I never thought it was possible to build on a lot that skinny.  I’m sure the city would be happy to sell an adventurous person one of these lots with the promise of a new home going there that will generate tax revenue for the city.

The lot this home was built on required a 3 ft setback on one side of the lot, meaning the width of the building from one exterior wall to the other exterior wall could be no wider than 13 ft.  What the architect decided to do was make the house only 1 room wide from front to back and incorporate outdoor space off the back of the house and include a rooftop deck to make the property as livable and functional as possible.  The 2nd problem they faced was that building code in Toronto would not allow them to put ANY windows on either side of the building.  Their solution was to make almost the entire front and back of the house glass so that they could control how much natural light entered the building.   Its modern look is a stark contrast to the historic homes that surround it.  But at the same time they complied with the normal neighborhood setbacks and building heights.  This means the outdoor spaces are very similar to the neighboring building so the house isn’t divergent in that sense.  The house is very different but still fits into the fabric of the block without completely dominating it.

I’ve always wondered if there was anything that could be done with these skinny lots and now there is an answer.

Check out the article here

and the slideshow here

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